Malta igaming companies call for action to protect industry reputation

Malta’s regulatory authorities have been hit by accusations of collusion with private business interests.
Malta’s regulatory authorities have been hit by accusations of collusion with private business interests.

The igaming operator association iGEN is pushing for Malta to take “clear and decisive” action against any wrongdoing among officials and regulators in order to protect the industry’s reputation. 

Malta.- Gaming is the second largest industry on the island of Malta, which has become a major hub for online gaming operations in Europe. However, a series of recent media reports and legal cases involving impropriety among senior officials and regulators risk tarnishing the sector’s reputation, operators have warned.

The igaming industry association iGEN said in a statement: “Over the past few years, and in particular, in recent weeks and months, the press has covered events, accusations and criminal charges being levied in Malta which have had a negative impact on the reputation of the igaming industry by direct and indirect association.

“A number of individuals in prominent political positions, as well as senior officials at key industry regulators, have been implicated in crimes and/or have been accused of colluding with local business leaders.

“The actions of the few are impacting negatively the second largest industry in Malta, which represents over 13% of the country’s GDP. These have resulted in higher costs, an increase in operational complexity, loss of business and substantial reputational damage.”

Maltese officials face accusations of wrongdoing

Malta’s regulatory authorities have been hit by accusations of collusion with private business interests

Joseph Cuschieri, the former head of Malta’s Financial Services Authority (MFSA), was forced to resign last November after Times of Malta reported that he had gone on a holiday to Las Vegas with casino owner Yorgen Fenech at Fenech’s expense.

The MFSA’s legal counsel, Edwina Licari, also joined Fenech and Cuschieri on the trip but denies any wrongdoing. 

Cuschieri was previously head of the Malta Gaming Authority before Heathcliff Farrugia, who stepped down in October last year. Farrugia himself is facing criminal charges for having traded in influence with Fenech.

Meanwhile, Keith Schembri, chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, and 10 others have been charged with corruption and money laundering.

Malta is also waiting to hear whether the Council of Europe anti-money laundering body, Moneyval, will recommend its greylisting, a move that could cause a significant loss of trust in Malta as a financial jurisdiction since no EU country has ever been greylisted. 

iGEN chairman Enrico Bradamante said: “We are satisfied to see that the relevant institutions have started to take decisive action against these claims, but much more remains to be done.

“Anyone who is or was involved in corruption and graft must be held accountable, and a clear message must be sent to demonstrate that the law applies to all without fear or favour.”

Malta’s economy minister Silvio Schembri has insisted that the country’s “institutions are working”, noting the appointment of the current CEO of the MGA through a public application process for the first time. 

He also suggested that new legislation would be needed for the gaming sector. 

He told Times of Malta: “This sector is dynamic, and you cannot have legislation which is outdated, since in the past 10 years the sector has changed completely.”

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